1 – Coaching search recap
The Buffalo Bills coaching search is rolling on into its second week.
As of Sunday, Kris Richard, Harold Goodwin, Anthony Lynn and Sean McDermott have all been confirmed as interviews by the team.
Co-owner Kim Pegula told WGR 550 that she envisions Buffalo talking to five or six candidates, a lesser amount than the 12 that they interviewed before hiring Rex Ryan in 2015.
The last couple of interviews could come from coaches that are currently in the playoffs. After the Wild Card games conclude on Sunday, teams will permit their coordinators to interview for head coaching openings.
It's been split down the middle between offense and defense, with McDermott and Richard being the two defensive coaches.
McDermott has been in charge of Carolina's defense since 2011. He has a proven record on areas the Bills need the most help in: forcing turnovers and stopping the run. The Panthers finished in the top 10 in total defense in the NFL four years in a row, and his defense played a big role in Carolina going 15-1 last season en route to the Super Bowl. He operates a 4-3 defense, which would be a change in scheme from Buffalo's defense under Ryan but many on that side of the ball have played in that scheme before.
Richard was the latest candidate to interview, as the Bills traveled to Seattle to conduct the face to face meeting on Sunday night, a day after the Seahawks Wild Card victory over Detroit. Richard's defensive unit helped hold the Lions offense to just six points in the lopsided victory. In charge of the Seahawks defense since 2015, Richard has proven himself capable of maintaining Seattle's top notch play on that side of the ball. He's also largely credited with building the Seahawks secondary into the 'Legion of Boom' as he was the team's secondary coach during Seattle's rise to prominence in the league.
Lynn was the second candidate to make the trip down to Florida to interview with Buffalo's brass. Lynn's one week as interim head coach made him the favorite to land the job on a full-time basis. He has the support of most of Buffalo's locker room, receiving strong words from LeSean McCoy and Richie Incognito, among others. In his two years in Buffalo, Lynn has led the Bills to the NFL's best rushing attack. He has a proven track record with running backs and is also a disciplinarian—something players admitted that they need in their next head coach.
Goodwin has a winning pedigree, coaching with the Steelers, Colts and Cardinals in recent years. He has been the offensive coordinator in Arizona since 2013, leading the Cardinals to some of their best seasons in franchise history, including single season team records for points and yards in 2015. Although Bruce Arians calls the plays, Goodwin's role in game planning has expanded recently. He has been credited with developing several offensive linemen such as Maurkice Pouncey and helping Cardinals running back David Johnson to his breakout season in 2016.
A comprehensive list of Buffalo's confirmed candidates over the past week and in future days can be found here.
**2 – Competition for candidates
Those candidates have remained busy outside of their meetings with Buffalo.
Although the Bills were McDermott's first interview, he has also spoken with the Chargers and is confirmed to meet with San Francisco on Monday.
McDermott is no stranger to the interview process. After Carolina's Super Bowl run last season, he was interviewed by Tampa Bay and Cleveland for their vacancies before those jobs went to Dirk Koetter and Hue Jackson, respectively.
Lynn has been one of the hottest commodities around the league since his rapid rise in Buffalo this season.
That deserved attention has gotten Lynn five head coaching interviews. Lynn most recently met with the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday but he has also spoken with the 49ers, Jaguars and Chargers. Interestingly, the only team with a vacancy that Lynn hasn't interviewed for is with the Denver Broncos, where he spent four years as a player and three seasons as a special teams assistant.
Goodwin has also spent his time with teams in need of help on the offensive side of the ball. The Bills were Goodwin's final stop on Saturday, but before that he also met with the Rams and Jaguars.
The Bills have been Richard's only head coaching interview thus far in the offseason coaching carousel.
3 – Secondary turnover
One of the Bills most consistent units in the second half of 2016 could be in line for a significant makeover heading into next season.
The only safeties Buffalo has signed for next season are Shamiel Gary and Corey Graham. James Ihedigbo, Corey White, Robert Blanton, Colt Anderson Sergio Brown and Jonathan Meeks are all set to become unrestricted free agents.
In addition, Aaron Williams' future remains cloudy after the free safety suffered a season-ending neck injury for the second consecutive season.
With the Bills now solidified at the 10th position for this year's draft, it could certainly be a position they target.
The group of free agents, however, have expressed interest on being back in Buffalo. Of course, some of that also hinges on who the Bills decide to hire as head coach.
"I want to be back here regardless," White said. "Rex and Rob (Ryan) brought me in here but I also feel like I've done enough here. But with him (Anthony Lynn) here, just being around him since OTAs, he's a good dude, he's a good coach who knows what he's talking about. It'll definitely persuade me to come back if I have the opportunity to."
That group certainly wants to build off of the momentum they had down the stretch. The Bills only allowed one opposing quarterback to go over 250 yards the final eight weeks of the season. Buffalo gave up the sixth-fewest passing yards in the league and only three teams gave up less passing touchdowns than the Bills did.
In addition to the safety position, the Bills also have to decide on Stephon Gilmore—who will command a hefty price tag.
Gilmore set a career-high with five interceptions in 2016, and was named a second alternate to represent the AFC at the 2017 Pro Bowl.
Gilmore said that while he would like to be in Buffalo, that the decision is now out of his hands. He added that despite playing for five defensive coordinators in his career so far, he wants to find continuity with the only team he has ever played professional football for.
"It's frustrating because everybody teaches different things and you've just got to find a way to be successful in whatever system they have," Gilmore said. "It's hard. Some guys play in a system for a long time and that's why they're able to make more plays, but we've got to learn to adapt. That's no excuse not to go out there and win games.